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Posts Tagged ‘Martin Luther’

Soleimani_Car Remains

Credit…Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office, via Associated Press

“[B]ecause of our foreign policy of interventionism developed in the twentieth century, and because of our more recent policy of pre-emptive war, the United States has become the primary target of militant Muslims worldwide.”

 

U.S. Strike in Iraq Kills Qassim Suleimani, Commander of Iranian Forces,” ran the New York Times headline.  Why did the US take this drastic action?  The article’s subheadline explaines, “Suleimani was planning attacks on Americans across the region, leading to an airstrike in Baghdad, the Pentagon statement said.”

This explanation is not something made up by the New York Times.  Rather, it is the same explanation given by official Washington for the deadly January 3 drone strike in Baghdad.

In his remarks from Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump, after asserting that his highest and most solemn duty was the defense of our nation, claimed that, “Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him…We took action last night to stop a war.  We did not take action to start a war.”

PBS reports Secretary of State Mike Pompeo giving similar justification in an interview he did with CNN.  According to PBS, Pompeo said that Gen. Qassem Soleimani “was actively plotting in the region to take actions, the big action as he described it, that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk.  We know it was imminent.   This was an intelligence-based assessment that drove our decision-making process.”

Reuters reported Pompeo’s remarks from January 3 thus, “last night was the time that we needed to strike to make sure that this imminent attack  that he was working actively was disrupted.”

Finally, the National Review quoted Brian Hook, U.S. Special Representative for Iran, saying, “The President’s first responsibility is the safety of the American people.  Qasem Soleimani was plotting imminent attacks in the region against Americans in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon that could have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people.”

One common thread that links all four quotes above is the word “imminent.”  We are told by all three gentlemen that General Soleimani was not merely plotting to harm Americans, but that his attack or attacks were “imminent.” Therefore, they argue, the President’s decision to drone Soleimani – in his January 3 statement quoted above, President Trump said “Last night, at my direction, the United States military successfully executed a flawless precision strike” thus taking responsibility for the decision – ought not be viewed as an act of aggression, but rather as one of self-defense.

The term “imminent” is key to understanding the reasoning behind the killing of Soleimani as well as determining whether the President’s decision was a moral one.  The reason “imminent” is such a key term relative to Soleimani’s death is that it’s the tip-off, the big tell, that this attack was carried out using the doctrine of preemptive war as the theoretical framework to justify the decision by the President to kill the Iranian general.

So what is the doctrine of preemptive war?  Let’s take a look.

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“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me, Amen.”

    – Martin Luther

Here I Stand, A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton (New York, New York: Meridian, 1995, 302 pages with bibliography, references, source of illustrations and index).

Luther_HIS

Many years ago, when first I began to read about the Reformation, I came across Roland Bainton’s biography of Martin Luther and couldn’t put it down. I thought then, and think to this day, that it is a classic on the subject of Martin Luther and the Reformation.

Born in England in 1894, Bainton lived most of his life in the United States, graduating from Yale University with a Ph.D., where he later served as the Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History. With a background like that, readers it may be tempted to suppose that Bainton’s writing, while scholarly, would have little appeal to the non-specialist. He would be half right. While it is true that Bainton was a gifted scholar, Here I Stand is anything but a dull read.

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Martin Luther

Just over a month back, Protestants celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It was a noteworthy occasion. October 31, 2017 marked 500 years since a little known Augustinian monk nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door and changed the course of history.

But while as Protestants we look back with joy at Luther’s bold stand against the papacy and proclamation of the Gospel of Justification by Belief Alone, not everyone was or is so appreciative of his achievements and the achievements of the other Reformers. But to call them unappreciative is really far too mild. The truth is, Luther and his contemporaries were hated unto death by representatives of the Roman Church-State (RCS), who did everything in their power to frustrate the spread of the Gospel in the 16th century.

And their efforts to quash the preaching of the Gospel did not stop in the 16th century, but continue unabated to this day. One example of this is the way the Pope Francis and the RCS attempted to co-opt this year’s Reformation Day celebration and turn it into a great big group hugging, Kumbaya singing rapprochement between Rome and her erring children, the “separated brethren” of the Reformation.

But Rome isn’t the only false church singing a false Gospel siren song in the hopes of wooing Protestants onto the rocks of works righteousness. No, Eastern Orthodoxy wants in on the act too.

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Day 2 of The Trinity Foundation’s Reformation conference saw four separate presentations by two men whose work has long been associated with the Foundation.  Mark W. Evans, a minister from Faith Presbytery, the Bible Presbyterian Church presented a single paper in two sessions titled The Reformation:  Past, Present, and Future.

The other speaker of the day was Dr. Paul M. Elliott, president of Teaching the Word Ministries.  Dr. Elliott gave two separate talks, the first titled The Reformation is Not a Return to Pre-Reformation Positions, and the second The Reformation Is Not Co-Belligerence with Unbelievers.

For those interested, all four sessions from Day 2 plus the two sessions from Day 1 were recorded and will be available on the Trinity Foundation website.  The planned date of the posting is not known to this writer.

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Wittenberg-1536.jpg

Wittenberg as seen from the Elbe, 1536.

October 31 is known to much of the world as the pagan holiday of Halloween. But for Christians, October 31 represents something quite different. It’s what we call Reformation Day.

 

For it was on that date in 1517 that Martin Luther’s nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door and forever changed the world for the better.

The Gospel of Justification By Faith Alone – the idea that sinful men are saved, not by doing good works, but solely by faith in Christ Jesus – once again shone forth in all its brilliance after a millennium of suppression by the Roman Church-State and millions were saved as a result.

But Luther’s rejection of church tradition in favor of the objective, written Word of God did not revolutionize the church only. It resulted in a whole new civilization, what we now call the West, coming into existence.

Ideas such as the sanctity of private property, honesty in exchange, the rule of law, capitalism, written constitutions, secular work as pleasing to God all found their origin in the Protestant Reformation that began with Luther.

Though it is not commonly understood by Americans, our nation owes its very existence to the Biblical ideas recovered at the time of the Reformation.

Most of us are taught to trace the foundations of our republic to Greece and Rome. But limited, constitutional government did not begin with Greco-Roman civilization. It began with the Hebrew Republic as recorded for us in the Old Testament. Thus the Bible is foundational to our political system.

In like manner, our economic system of capitalism or free enterprise finds its origins, not in the writings of pagan philosophers, nor in the thought of medieval scholastics, nor in the principles of the Renaissance, but in the propositions of the Word of God, the 66 books of the Bible.

To put it another way: No Protestant Reformation, no United States of America. To quote John Robbins,

One of Luther’s most brilliant followers, John Calvin, systematized the theology of the Reformation. The seventeenth-century Calvinists laid the foundations for both English and American civil rights and liberties: freedom of speech, pres, and religion, the privilege against self-incrimination, the independence of juries, and right of habeas corpus, the right not to be imprisoned without cause. The nineteenth-century German historian Leopold von Ranke referred to Calvin as the “virtual founder of America” (Civilization and the Protestant Reformation).

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meltdown-620Today we may apply the Apostle’s words first to those (rulers) who without cogent cause inflict exorbitant taxes upon the people, or by changing and devaluating the currency, rob them, while at the same time they accuse their subjects of being greedy and avaricious.

    – Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans 2:2, 3

Now, if the laws of buying and selling are corrupted, human society is in a manner dissolved; so that he who cheats by false weights and measures, differs little from him who utters false coin.

    – John Calvin, Commentary on Leviticus 19:35

But if life is an equal value to all, there is something strange, when war comes and large military expenditures are necessary, in requiring the person who has saved for a life insurance policy to lose half its buying power by inflation, while the spendthrift loses nothing and enjoys high wages to boot.

    – Gordon H. Clark, A Christian View of Men and Things, pp. 101-102

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